By Kim Walkover
Homebuilder companies seem to have missed the memo that the economy is down. Either that, or they are flat out ignoring it.
In the community of Land O’ Lakes, the business of home building is booming. Several companies such as M/I, Adams, Taylor Morrison and Standard Pacific are continuously building new homes in developments around the area.
According to Frank Messina, vice president of sales and marketing for the Tampa division of Standard Pacific, there are several factors that make the area so promising. He said the reasons they are so confident in building in Land O’ Lakes include quality schools, affordable land, proximity to shopping and downtown Tampa, lower property taxes and new hospitals.
Peter Winter, a real estate professional for the same company, said people are favoring new homes over previously owned since they are more affordable than ever based on pricing, interest rates, low homeowner’s insurance rates and lower taxes based on assessed values. He said that 85 percent of Standard Pacific’s sales in 2010 have been new inventory homes, which are fully built and ready for purchase.
Along with being an employee of the company and an advocate for homeownership, Winter is also a homeowner in Land O’ Lakes and moved here for many of the reasons stated above.
“My wife and I moved here and built in the area because we wanted new. Everything here is so clean and I personally like the potential,” Winter said. “My wife is a teacher and the schools here are so great.”
In addition to the area, another perk of building or buying new is the timeline from purchase to move-in. When purchasing an already-built inventory home it can take just 30 days to be move-in ready. If building from the ground up, that timeline increases to just 90 to 120 days, plus the time it takes to obtain the necessary permits.
Winter said the permit process is taking four to five weeks in Pasco County and up to eight weeks in Hillsborough County. He says it’s taking longer than it has in the past due in large part to staff reductions at the county.
Development numbers are up countywide from a year ago. According to Pasco County Central Permitting, there were 541 permits pulled for new single-family homes between January and June of this year. The projected number of permits for 2010 is 1,094, over a hundred more than the 937 permits issued in 2009. That’s a long way from the 7,252 permits pulled in 2005, but it is a projected uptick nonetheless.
“I think the increase could be a positive sign,” Winter said, “but I also believe it can be a false indicator that might be tied to the tax credit deadline.
“I think many builders started more inventory homes to make sure they had enough for the initial June 30 tax credit deadline,” he said.
New shopping centers and restaurants, expanding roads, central location and highly rated schools are the focus of the up-and-coming area and many people are flocking to it.
New homeowner Keri Ex recently purchased a home in the Asbel neighborhood in Land O’ Lakes and chose to build from the ground up.
“I looked both in Tampa and Land O’ Lakes when I was looking for houses, and Tampa was a lot more expensive for new construction, and also taxes were quite a bit more,” she said.
Ex said she looked at several foreclosures and short sales on newer homes, but that most of them cost more than she would spend for brand new or that they would need a total overhaul and she didn’t want that much of a project.
“Even some of the foreclosures, with the poor state they were in, were not a whole lot less money,” she said. “So, when I found this house, which was similar to one I looked at in New Tampa but for a lot less, I decided to get it.”
It’s clear that Ex isn’t the only one who feels that way, seeing as how new home development is so prevalent in the area.